iPhones, Damage from Hurricane Irma, Housing Supply, Unpaid Commissions and Licensing

I’m up early, as usual, thinking.   There are changes coming to the industry and I’m thinking about the coming few years.  What do I want to see and what am I planning?

The supply of homes is low, compared to licensed agents.  I think inventory is at the lowest level I’ve seen in the last 30 years.  By low, I mean low compared to the number of buyers and low compared to the number of agents hoping to make a sale.   This isn’t necessarily good for an owner.  If selling, what choices are available?  New construction is climbing and, while builders appear to be making record profits, the cost of materials and labor shortages loom.   What will happen in the coming few months?  Consider the recent hurricanes.  Harvey and Irma created a massive need for construction workers and materials in multiple states.  We may be facing a greater inventory crisis in 2018, but we may also be facing a change to the tax code, with possible elimination of the mortgage write-off.

The new iPhones are out and I’m watching something called ARKit , offering an improvement in virtual or augmented reality.   Think about staging or remodelling.  Landscapers or agents could place changes on an app, potentially changing the way we market homes.  I like to paint a picture of what I think could be done with a property. This is becoming easier….a lot easier!  Houzz a design and renovation network/community released a new version of View in My Room 3D.  This offers a catalog of 500,000 virtual images to stage or plan.    Every piece of technology we buy seems to lead toward augmented reality in daily life.

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Palms and debris demolished some docks during Hurricane Irma in 2017

Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Harvey will have an impact locally.  The shortage of labor and material will, perhaps, change the market in 2018, with damage patterns unique to each storm.  I recently surveyed an area with damage from Hurricane Matthew last year.  Several undamaged docks or docks not completely destroyed, where hit hard by Irma.  The direction, tide and wind patterns all change with each event.   While this isn’t a normal occurrence, the size of the storm and impact to Florida is something I’m watching.  In my opinion, labor, material costs and inventory will be impacted in 2018.    Add a possible change to the tax code.  I see some uncertainty in 2018 and 2019, at least in new construction.

 

I’m continuing to use some social media marketing.  Social media is just a virtual space for anything you make it and what I think of as “real life” social media, bleeds into influence with marketing on social media.  The separation isn’t always easily maintained and connections or online presence doesn’t always equal a great marketer.  Social media is a little like choosing friends wisely in the real world.  If you open the door to anyone, life becomes a little more difficult.   The PRESENCE you create and the way you present yourself online, have a lot to do with what you might be able to do with the influence.  While I like connection and influence, I choose carefully.     I curate several groups and try to choose connections carefully.   If I see negative or unprofessional behavior from a “friend” or connection, they quietly disappear.   I also curate or change the way I spend time online.  In the last few years, I’ve been using a handful of platforms, but I also change, depending on how that particular online space is perceived.   Social can almost take on a personality,  with Facebook an equivalent to a family or class reunion and LinkedIn closer to a professional networking group.  The groups change and the population using the groups changes over time.  Choosing might mean rethinking how I use a certain space or choosing whether to put any effort into the space at all.

Unpaid commissions…..this is on my mind today.  When would you pursue the collection of a fee, when you were definitely the procuring cause of a sale? The answer isn’t always simple.  Without going into any details, I’m considering how to handle a sale made through my efforts and during a listing period.   The frustration in pursuing a fee as a broker, is in judging whether your cost to collect will outweigh the chances of actually collecting.  While I may be standing on the right side of the law and am covered by an agreement, a truly unethical client might actually not be worth pursuing.  Is the client connected to local networks and well-regarded publicly?  If I won an action to recover a fee, could I actually collect or recover the lost court costs?  Will I pay a secondary cost if the client resents being caught?

Licensing is on my mind this morning.  I read an article on a new “flat rate” commission structure from a european franchise.   Flat fees aren’t new, but in a market with far too many agents to afford opportunity for all, rates drop or agents choose another profession.  In the future, I would love to see a much higher bar for the profession.   Ideally, I’d like to see national licensing for real estate, equivalent to the Mortgage Loan Originator licensing.  I’d also like to see added required knowledge in construction, contract law and finance.   It would be simple to add material to the broker and salesperson licensing, but why not make the courses similar?  In other words, require a full broker’s course for every new licensee and only allow them to apply to be a broker after a set level of experience and number of verified transactions.

So, You’re Always Online…When do you work?

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This question comes up a few times each year…and I’m still at a loss for words. ¬†My¬†business is about marketing. ¬†Marketing all stems from good communication. ¬†No, I’m not online all day, but I do make a point of being available all day. ¬† How? ¬†Well, I learned something interesting years ago. ¬†Presence has value. ¬†Presence online means establishing worthwhile connections and using those connections to achieve a goal. ¬†Does a single connection have value? ¬†What about 1000 connections or 10,000 connections? ¬† ¬†If you hire someone to market anything, how many connections would you like to see? ¬† Do you want less or more? ¬†Being available and learning to be connected is the definition of work, if you’re in sales.

The misperception with social media is sometimes in how often a marketing guru is online. ¬†Just because my status says online, doesn’t mean I’m always online or only online using a specific application, but it almost always means I can be reached. ¬†My phone’s notifications alert me when clients reach out. ¬† ¬†I use social media as often as voice phone calls or text messaging…often interchangeably. ¬†Everything becomes a matter of reaching an audience in whatever medium and at any reasonable time the audience chooses. ¬† ¬†Should I tell an avid Facebook user, interested in talking to me or leaving a message on facebook messenger, to call me instead? ¬†What about someone reaching out to my Twitter account? ¬†I never tell the client to modify their lives. ¬†I adapt to the client. ¬†This blog sends comment notifications. ¬† I use text, messenger, traditional phones (forwarded when I leave the office), Facebook Messenger and about half a dozen other social media environments.

If you use social media for amusement, work or another reason, I think you’ll agree with me. ¬†Influence is the point of publishing. ¬† You either want influence or don’t want influence. ¬† Some businesses thrive on the influence possible with social media, but very few create content and direct that effort in a meaningful way.

Back to Work After the Storm

Well, I’m off to work this morning. Ironically, I’ll be looking at two lots with a portion of each in jurisdictional wetland. Will it be a lake view? I am not expecting good things….. #HurricaneIrma #AmeliaIsland   

This is a  very good day to see the drainage issues on a lot!

Waiting for High Tide on Amelia Island in Hurricane Irma

My eyes are on the tide.   This morning, several hours before high tide, the water is up at familiar Amelia Island Fernandina locations.   

Tides May Be Issue for Fernandina in Hurricane Irma?

The following pictures were taken about 2:30PM, 2 1/2 hours after high tide, in Fernandina. ¬†If you notice, along the waterfront and Egan’s Creek, the tides are beyond ordinary high tide levels…I’m guessing by about 1 to 2 feet. ¬† Our next high tide is at 12:33PM. ¬† ¬† ¬†Wind is piling sand up at Main Beach, but we didn’t notice any significant damage yet.

Fernandina Beach at 7:08 am and sunset will be at 7:37 pm. In the high tide and low tide chart, we can see that the first high tide was at 12:08 am and the next high tide at 12:33 pm.

Source: Tide times and charts for Fernandina Beach, Florida (East Coast) and weather forecast for fishing in Fernandina Beach in 2017

 

Fernandina Beach Beginning to See Hurricane Irma Effects

Over the last few hours, rain and wind has been slowly picking up. ¬† So far, we’re only at average northeaster levels and a slightly higher than average tide.

Scams and Unlicensed Contracting after Hurricane Irma in Florida / Tips

While waiting for Irma to hit, I thought about a recent advertisement on a local network group.   The post offered several services and the individual did not appear to have any of the legally required licenses.   Hurricanes are unpleasant enough!   I have simple advice for anyone reading.   Never hire an unlicensed “Contractor”!   The DBPR in Florida offers a great “FREE” tool to verify licensure.   Every hurricane season and, particularly in coastal states, we see a flood of unlicensed activity or scams.   Whether the activity is a roofing scam with “inspectors” damaging shingles in an inspection and promising to pay your deductible, or outright unlicensed contractors offering to repair anything, it is important to verify the licensure in the appropriate profession or understand how a contractor is subcontracting or partnering with a joint venture on your job.

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Hurricane Floyd – Amelia Island in 1999

This link will take you to the “Verify a License” page for Florida.  Is the contractor licensed in the trade he offers or as a General, Building or Residential Contractor?  Is the insurance up to date?  Car insurance or a general policy for a non-construction business is not sufficient.   You want a current policy for the licensed entity or individual.  Worker compensation is another issue.  Verify who will be on the job site.  Worker’s comp rates for roofing is far higher than a rate for a painter.  Is the correct category of work insured?

How to you pay?  I would strongly suggest a site like Angie’s List to see the history for a contractor and rate charged for a typical job.  Be careful if you see a business card without licensure information or a description like “Handy Man”, but offering to install plumbing, electrical, roofing, painting and mow the lawn.    I never pay in full until completion and am careful of deposits.   Not only are you likely to see poor quality work from an unlicensed contractor, you will often have little legal recourse.   Licensed contractors contribute to a fund designed as a last resort.  See the information and direct link below.

Recovery Fund FAQ – DBPR

www.myfloridalicense.com/dbpr/pro/cilb/documents/recov_faqs.pdf 

Jul 1, 2016 – The Florida Homeowners’ Construction Recovery Fund is a fund of last resort available to a natural person who has suffered monetary damages by the financial mismanagement or misconduct of a contractor, and who has exhausted all other resources of payment.

Finally, what happens if your contractor, licensed or not, is hiring employees without worker’s compensation coverage?  Could you be liable as the property owner?

In my county, the Clerk of Courts offers a tool for the public to read records of legal proceedings.  If you’d like to check the public record for legal proceedings, they might show up in your county or in the county/state where the contractor typically works.    The DBPR may also have records for disciplinary proceedings or fines.  Seeing this, without a good explanation might be a red flag.   Finally, some counties and cities have permit checking tools.  You may be able to see numbers for past jobs in an old permit.  If you have the time, it can be educational to see the information for another nearby job.  If I don’t know the contractor, I believe in checking references.  By references, I don’t mean the references the contractor furnishes.  I might even talk with a few past clients I see on public record.

As always, please consult an attorney or appropriate professional for legal or tax advice and consider the suggestions above as intended…unsolicited free advice.

Hurricane Irma Update and Useful Information

9/6/2017 at 6PM Source: Navy Hurricane Tracking Model

Irma will have an impact on Florida, but the path can change. Be prepared, but keep in mind how storm paths can shift.

Resources: 

Nassau County Emergency Information

95 Residents, Business Owners and Property Owners Randomly Polled on Parking Solutions

As of today, a poll on a local’s only Facebook group called Amelia Island Local Network, showed support for either leaving parking alone or some support for an adjustment of parking times and enforcement of the current rules.

It will be interesting to see how closely the answers from this group compares to  a larger survey by the City of Fernandina, mailed to 1500 random local residents.   The sample groups are different, but this group does show very low support for paid parking in 2017.


Parking and access to business has a great impact on development or value in a business district.   With competition along 8th Street, Sadler and in Yulee, local merchants might resist anything percieved as a tax on businesses.  In my opinion, it is important to avoid any perception of revenue generation.  Parking control should preserve access and facilitate business or community access, not be an excuse to generate revenue.

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Source: Facebook www.facebook.com/groups/ameliaisland

Signs Matter

I actually ordered the sign below, but in my defense, this was the third version of a design on the third website. I normally use one of two sign companies online or one local company. ¬† ¬†After two changes to the wording¬†and a change from my favorite location in Texas, indefinitely delayed with the storm damage from Hurricane Harvey, I typed inches instead of feet. ¬†The mistake was, luckily, an easy fix. ¬† If you don’t notice at first, the first “100” is in inches, not feet.

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Easy correction, but important to check the proof more than once.

At least this mistake was an easy fix, but over the years, I’ve learned some serious tricks to keep costs down and visibility up. Often working alone and in a small office, everything matters. ¬†Signs are a significant part of marketing and deserve attention to every detail. ¬† A larger sign increases visibility, but the size of lettering and color can be more important than the size of the sign. ¬†Red makes the average driver notice a sign and high contrast in colors, like this sign, is much easier to see. ¬†I tend to use dark and light with white and the red, blue or black contrasting color. ¬† Red at top or top and bottom is helpful. What does a color say about your business. ¬†Consider colors like “Facebook Blue” and the research going into certain iconic color combinations.

Do you want the best price on a sign? ¬†Larger signs are typically best ordered locally, without shipping. ¬†Smaller custom signs under 36 inches come with free shipping from a number of sources, but anything larger and you’ll double the cost when the shipping is no longer free. ¬† On busy streets, I usually order a metal composite or double-thickness corrugated plastic. ¬† ¬†I buy locally, whenever possible, but will shop prices. ¬†If the cost is a little higher locally, I’ll buy locally, but if double or triple, I won’t compare every time. ¬† Usually small signs, subdivision custom signs and signs over 3′ by 3′ make more sense to buy locally.

While I’m thinking about it, “For Sale” signs should be installed to comply with the local sign ordinances. ¬†The biggest violations are signs placed in the right of way, often extending 30 feet from the center line of roadways. ¬†Just knowing where you should install signs can really add up. ¬†I pass one local subdivision several times a day. ¬†The signs disappear regularly and I’d be willing to bet at least 6 sets of signs have been picked up by code enforcement. ¬†A less common issue is square footage for a sign. ¬†It isn’t common, since signs are expensive, but sign ordinances typically limit the total size of a sign.